Office Workout Moves You Can Do Right at Your Desk

If you have trouble staying fit at work, these office exercises are a great way to keep your body moving right at your desk. The moves here involve stretching and strengthening your body, all within the comfort of your workspace.

The only equipment you need are a chair and a full water bottle or dumbbells. Make sure the chair you use is stable. If it has wheels, push it against a wall to make sure it won't roll away.

This workout doesn't take the place of traditional strength training. But it does offer you a way to keep your body moving if you can't get away from your desk.

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions.


Seated Stretches

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lower Back Stretch (pictured): Sit tall and place the left arm behind the left hip. Gently twist to the left, using the right hand to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Wrist Stretch: Extend an arm in front, palm up, and grab the fingers with your other hand. Gently pull the fingers towards you to stretch the forearm, holding for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist and Forearm Stretch: Press hands together in front of the chest, elbows bent and forearms parallel to the floor. Gently bend wrists to the right and left for 10 reps.


Upper Body Exercises

Woman doing tricep dip with chair

Ben Goldstein 

Triceps Dips (pictured): Using a stable chair, place hands on the seat next to your hips. Move hips in front of the chair and bend the elbows, lowering the body until the elbows are at 90-degree angles. Push back up and repeat for 16 reps.

Biceps Curl: Hold a water bottle in your right hand and, with abs in and spine straight, curl the bottle towards the shoulder for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Front Raise to Triceps Press: Sit tall with your abs in and hold a full water bottle in the left hand. Lift the bottle up to shoulder level, pause, and then continue lifting all the way up over your head. When your arm is next to the ear, bend the elbow, taking the water bottle behind you and contracting the triceps. Straighten the arm and lower down, repeating for 12 reps on each arm.​


Lower Body Exercises

Pulsing Chair Squats
Pulsing Chair Squats. Ben Goldstein

Chair Squat (pictured): While sitting, lift up until your hips are just hovering over the chair. Extend your arms in front of you for balance. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, stand all the way up, and repeat for 16 reps.

One-Legged Squat: Using a stable chair, place one foot slightly in front of the other. Use the chair's arms for leverage as you push up into a one-legged squat. Hover just over the chair, keeping the other leg on the floor for balance. Lower and repeat, only coming a few inches off the chair for 12 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexion: Sit tall with your abs in. Lift the left foot off the floor a few inches, knee bent. Hold for 2 seconds, lower, and repeat for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Leg Extension: Sit tall with your abs in. Extend the left leg until it's level with the hip, squeezing the quadriceps. Hold for 2 seconds, lower, and repeat for 16 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Inner Thigh: Place a towel, firm water bottle, or empty coffee cup between the knees as you sit up tall with the abs in. Squeeze the object, release halfway, and squeeze again. Complete 16 reps of slow pulses.


Ab Exercises

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Side Bends (pictured in a standing position, but it can also be performed while sitting down): Hold a water bottle with your right hand and stretch it up over the head, arm straight. Gently bend towards the left as far as you can, contracting the abs. Come back to center and repeat on the other side. Complete 10 reps (bending to the right and left is one rep).

Ab Twists: Hold the water bottle at chest level and, keeping the knees and hips forward, gently twist to the left as far as you comfortably can, feeling the abs contract. Twist back to center and then to the right for a total of 10 reps. Don't force it or you may end up with a back injury.

Move More Throughout the Workday

Beyond working out at your desk, there are a few tricks for staying active at work. Taking the stairs, parking further away from the door, and walking around the office when you can are good places to start. Beyond that, there are a few other options to keep you moving:

  • If it's allowed, sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This will strengthen your abs and back and you'll work on your posture without even trying.
  • Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to stand up, stretch, and move around. Even if you just swing your arms or take a deep breath, you'll feel more alert.
  • Use the restroom on another floor, and take the stairs to get there.
  • Use a pedometer or activity monitor and keep track of how many steps you take. Aim for 6,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
  • Leave something important in your car (your lunch, your briefcase, etc.) so you have to run out to get it. Take the stairs when you go.
  • Deliver documents or messages to co-workers in person rather than by email or text.
  • Walk around the parking lot or local mall on your lunch hour.
  • Get a headset for your phone so you can move around while you talk.
  • Get a standing desk that allows you to change your position throughout the workday. Start the day sitting until you feel stiff or ready to move, then take a short walk. When you come back, set your desk in a standing position. Work standing for as long as you'd like, then switch back to sitting. 

Remember that any movement is better than none. So, don't feel like you have to do sprints all day long. Adding short bouts of exercise throughout the workday can help you burn more calories and reduce stress.

Make Your Office More Fitness-Friendly

Your boss may not have considered how much more productive employees would be with a little exercise. If you can, encourage them to:

  • Work with local gyms to provide membership discounts for employees.
  • Ask local personal trainers to provide monthly seminars or free body-fat testing for employees. Some trainers will even do this for free.
  • Set up daily or weekly walks during lunch or after work.
  • Give extra breaks during the day to take quick walks.
  • Be active themselves. If the boss exercises, employees will take their own health more seriously.

Even if your boss could care less about exercise, you can do a lot to get others involved in working out. Plan lunches where co-workers get together and talk about ways to exercise at work. Get a group together and join a local gym (see if they'll give you a group discount).

Another option is to hire a personal trainer to come and work with you and your co-workers during lunch. Many trainers offer discounts for group training sessions. There are a number of ways to encourage fitness in the workplace, so be creative.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."